Thursday, July 17, 2008
Le Pomp et Pre-Tour
After our grueling 90 minute French lesson with Sophie in Leran yesterday, we headed over to the neighboring village of Chalabre to participate in that all-French sport of watching Le Tour de France. We threw the bikes in the back of Smokey, thinking that we might have to park some distance outside of town, and drove the back route through Camon.
It was trying to rain and we wondered if they ever cancel on account of bad weather. We quickly concluded "NO" due to the rescheduling of all the road closures and accommodations. Chalabre was hopping for a Jeudi midi, and faithful friends Alan, Eileen and Billy had a table waiting at El Chupito Sports Bar.
Some of the locals had tables set up all along the street, bringing BBQ grills, and providing themselves with full-course meals, numerous bottles of wine, and dessert. Several of the tables at El Chupito had been reserved in advance, and food orders placed, so we had to wait until considerably later to eat. Live and learn. I was seriously hoping that the promotion vehicles would be tossing out hors d'oeuvres.
Just in case any more racers were yanked from the pelaton because of failed drug tests, the retirement home in Chalabre brought in some replacements. Several tables of the old folks were there to cheer on their favorite. I'm guessing that a few of the old codgers were probably quite the cyclists at one time themselves.
The gendarmie were plentiful, attempting to keep people off to the sides. Billy (a former London Bobby) commented that the gendarmie were merely wearing T-shirts, no "stab-proof" jackets as they call them in England. We then got into a conversation on the psychology of aggressive behaviors and whether law enforcement wearing body armor somehow subconsciously stimulates aggression.
We just know that in the US, the lawyers would have required the roadway to be hermetically sealed from possible infraction by any human being. I could have just reached out and grabbed one of those racers at any time, I know it. But, I did not have anything to do with the crash. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
The sponsors flash by at speeds uncommon in American parades, but it certainly makes things more exciting. Their 'floats' are ingenious, but it probably gets old doing this town after town, day after day. But, hey, it's Le Tour! A few days ago I was helping out at a friend's chambres d'hote in our village, cleaning rooms for some of the press corps coming in that night. While I was there, a gentleman came to the door who was apparently in charge of arranging accommodations for 400 press members during the Tour. Mind boggling. Well, I did my part.
By the way, I'm convinced it's Lance who's driving the Etap Hotel bed float. Just click on the picture to enlarge and see for yourself.